Functional divisions for visual processing in the central brain of flying Drosophila
Although anatomy is often the first step in assigning functions to neural structures, it is not always clear whether architecturally distinct regions of the brain correspond to operational units. Whereas neuroarchitecture remains relatively static, functional connectivity may change almost instantaneously according to behavioral context. We imaged panneuronal responses to visual stimuli in a highly conserved central brain region in the fruit fly, Drosophila, during flight. In one substructure, the fan-shaped body, automated analysis revealed three layers that were unresponsive in quiescent flies but became responsive to visual stimuli when the animal was flying. The responses of these regions to a broad suite of visual stimuli suggest that they are involved in the regulation of flight heading. To identify the cell types that underlie these responses, we imaged activity in sets of genetically defined neurons with arborizations in the targeted layers. The responses of this collection during flight also segregated into three sets, confirming the existence of three layers, and they collectively accounted for the panneuronal activity. Our results provide an atlas of flight-gated visual responses in a central brain circuit.
© 2015 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Sten Grillner, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, and approved August 3, 2015 (received for review July 23, 2015). Published ahead of print August 31, 2015. We thank Rachel Wilson, Philip Holmes, and Bettina Schnell for valuable feedback. Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award U01NS090514. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Author contributions: P.T.W. and M.H.D. designed research; P.T.W. performed research; P.T.W. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; P.T.W. analyzed data; and P.T.W. and M.H.D. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1514415112/-/DCSupplemental.
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